our global families

The most compelling thought for me over the recent decade has been the idea that the body of Christ and the household of God are global realities, not just local ones. It has transformed my life.

On the global stage, 1 Corinthians 12 is still about those who might consider themselves to be dispensable and living our lives in a way that makes them indispensable. 1 Timothy 3 is still about creating a sense that my fathers and mothers, my uncles and aunties, my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters are found among those who share the gospel with me, and not just those with whom I share genes.

Yes, these are compelling thoughts. They have impacted us too such an extent that under God's direction and care, in our 50s, we have uprooted from home and family in order to give a fuller and deeper expression to them taking root in our lives.

And so just imagine how I felt when I saw this book emerge on a publisher's electronic news update. I could not get my hands on it quickly enough..

Our Global Families (Baker, 2015) is a collaborative project by Todd Johnson (associated for many years with that peerless statistician, David Barrett) and one of his students, Cindy Wu.

While I ran to it quickly, I did not read it quickly because it wasn't quite what I was expecting. However there will still be pages to which I return. For example: 'developing friendships and practicing hospitality' (139-147) are the obvious and simple habits to embrace, with a call to 'open our table...open our homes...open our arms...open our minds'.

In a world overwhelmed by the complexity of migration issues, we are reminded that 'with the exception of the command to worship God and God alone, 'welcome the stranger' is the most oft-quoted commandment in the Hebrew scriptures' (141). While on the subject of Judaism, and acknowledging the need of the cross of Christ to complete the truth, it is a quotation by Rabbi Jonathan Sachs that sticks out to me. He writes that Judaism is about 'honoring the image of God in other people and thus turning the world into a home for the divine presence' (155).

Highlighting the dual importance of the indigenizing principle and the pilgrim principle is valuable: 'these principles guide us to a church that is different everywhere (by culture) and the same everywhere (by faith)' (96). Pointing readers towards James Davison Hunter's To Change the World, with his call for Christians to be 'faithfully present' in the world, interested me because it has been the stand-out book of the decade for me.

There are a number of fresh and clear statistics: 'In 1800 Christians and Muslims were one-third of the world's population, and by 2100 they are expected to count for two-thirds. Surely the relationship between these two religions is a significant one' (21). 'The high point for the non-religious was around 1970, when almost 20% of the world's population was either agnostic or atheist ... (but that figure has declined since then) and the future of the world is likely to be a religious one' (22).

The dual authorship of the book, with its tendency to add personal stories and testimonies, interrupted the argument a bit much for me. Plus, to be convinced of an argument, I need a stronger biblical-theological framework than the one provided in these pages. But if you, or your church, or your small group, are wanting to take some early steps into these ideas and have your life transformed as well, then this is a good book with which to begin. It takes time to define key terms like globalization and contextualisation. It captures facts and figures and quotations. It is written simply. It includes lists of practical suggestions. It has a small group discussion guide.
The primary problem is that our identities are too small. We tend to rely most on our smaller, cultural identities and ignore our larger, common identity as members of the body of Christ. (quoted on 70, from Christena Cleveland's Disunity in Christ)
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